Sunday, May 22, 2016

Breaking the Cycle

You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

The climax of the Doctor Who series 9 story “The Zygon Inversion” comes with a face-off: Human versus Zygon. Kate Stewart and Bonnie, the Zygon copy of Clara Oswald, each stand next to a box with two buttons, each with the ability to destroy one race or the other - or both.

The Doctor, of course, can’t just stand by and let them destroy themselves - he has to make them see reason. “You just want cruelty to beget cruelty,” he says. “ You're superior to people who were cruel to you. You're just a whole bunch of new, cruel people. A whole bunch of new, cruel people being cruel to some other people who'll end up being cruel to you. The only way anyone can live in peace is if they're prepared to forgive. Why don't you break the cycle?”

The first time I saw the episode, I labeled this scene as the Doctor’s “Jesus Moment,” because what he is asking Bonnie and Kate to do is the same radical thing Jesus demanded of his followers two thousand years ago. Indeed, it’s the same radical thing he still demands of us today. There are so many conflicts in the world that could be solved if people would just listen to the other side, forgive past wrongs, and move forward to solve problems together instead of engaging in the never-ending back-and-forth of seeking revenge. Everyone wants to save face when instead they should be making the bold move of turning the other cheek.

Easier said than done, I know. Evidently Jesus knew, too, because what he said next just might hold the key to breaking the cycle: I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

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